Open Water Racing Tips

The Professional Triathlete does the sports for a living. The Age Grouper does it for the love. What can you as an age grouper learn from the Pro?

Don’t forget, they too started off in the amateur ranks and worked their way up to the elite level. They too needed guidance and had to learn from their predecessors. You can pick up some valuable ammo from the Pro’s when we go open water triathlon racing.

Position, Position, Position.

You can easily save up to 1 minute in your overall swim finish time simply by standing in the right place before the start. How is that possible you may ask?

How did to do it?

Stand in the right position before the start of the race.

How will position help you?

You get to swim with faster swimmers and more often than not, are virtually “pushed” from behind into a faster swim time. You also gain more self-confidence from swimming closer up front in the field, and that often delivers faster swim times. So, look out for a good starting position, it could shave minutes off your swim times

Warm-up before the plunge

You might notice that the pro’s often go through a rigorous swim warm-up routine before the start of any race they participate in. They need to be geared and ready to go when that gun goes off. Their heart rate will go from 70 bpm to 160bpm in less than 50m. Without a good warm-up routine, these pro’s will lack the firepower needed to swim hard from the start and by the time they find their rhythm, the race leaders will be long gone.

You never feel fantastically good when you first climb into a pool to start your swim training sets, do you? You need a couple of laps before you get into the groove and swim faster, right? The same rule applies to the races.

You cannot expect to swim fast if you dive into the water “cold”.

What you need to do is get in the water prior to the race start and swim for a few minutes. A couple of 20m sprints with some easy swimming in between should do the trick. We are talking maximum 5 minutes in the water before you get out and wait for the gun. You can certainly save at least 30 seconds plus by warming up adequately over an Olympic distance triathlon.

I do concede that at some events it may not be possible to get into the water and warm-up, either due to the water being extremely cold or due to the race organisers and logistics. You then need to take along a set of rubber cords and do some dry land swimming with the cords where you simulate the freestyle stroke and loosen up the arms and shoulder. Not the ideal, but certainly better than no warm-up at all.

Swim Straight

This sounds pretty self-explanatory. However, you would be amazed at how bad a triathletes navigational skills are when they plunge into the water. If you lack the skill to swim straight to the marker buoys, you could end up swimming as much as 200m further over a 1500m swim. That 200m “extra” swim distance can turn into at least a 4 minute plus add onto your finish time over the Olympic distance.

You need to be sure of the exact course yourself and not be content to rely on the athletes in front of you, hoping they will swim straight and you can just follow. Before the swim start, look for land markers on the route that you can use to navigate your way around the swim course. A good pair of goggles is also essential to ensure that your vision is not restricted and you can see the marker buoys easily enough. If your goggles do mist up or take in water during the swim, stop and take a few seconds to fix them, look up and make sure you are on the right “straight” line before continuing to swim on.

Draft

Yes it is legal to draft in the swim section of any triathlon. It does not produce the exact same benefits as drafting does say on a bicycle. But, it can certainly help you swim faster and save you energy during the race.

The idea is to find an athlete or pack of swimmers that are swimming slightly faster than you.

Then, hook in and try to swim off their pace.

The ideal position to draft off in the swim.

Swim either to the left or right of the swimmer in front of you.

Position your head around their knee/hip area. It does take some practice swimming so close to someone without actually hampering their stroke or yours. Second best spot to draft off would be to swim on someone’s feet. The only problem being the lack of vision as their kicking motion produces air bubbles which can make the swim extremely annoying and uncomfortable. Just off the feet and to the side of the swimmer in front of you is the better position to draft off with.

You will be amazed at how much easier it is to swim when the swimmer in front of you “toes” you around the swim course; It will make you much faster too. You often hear the war stories after the race of how someone” just missed” the swim pack in front of them. And, had they managed to get on the feet, how much faster their swim time would/could have been. They are not just talking big; Drafting in the swim can potentially save them and you both time and energy reserves at the next race stop.

Start fast! What?

This last trick relates directly to the trick of drafting off the swimmers in front of you. If you do not start fast, you often end up swimming with the slower swimmers and chasing for the entire swim. This is especially over the shorter distances of Sprint and Olympic triathlon. The problem with starting fast is that you need to train your body to be able to do it. Starting too fast for some will result in them “blowing” completely out in the water at the halfway point and limping home for their slowest swim times ever. You need to simulate a race start in training and open water swim practices.

“Fartlek” swim training

This is the best method of training your body to adapt to being able to start fast during a race. Then, settle down into a comfortable pace and rhythm (lowering your heart rate). After that, still being able to pick up the pace again near the end of the swim. Fartlek training requires you to swim fast, then slow, then fast again during training. These so-called mini speed intervals during some of your sets will help condition the body to adapt to the rigors of starting fast during the race and then swimming comfortably the rest of the way. If you can start fast and then remain comfortable for the rest of the swim, you will swim faster.

These 5 Open Water Swim tricks will go a long way toward helping you swim faster. They all seem pretty obvious. So, put them into practice and you will be sure to swim faster at the next race you do.

 

www.sisuracing.co.uk

Workout Wednesday – 2 x Power Session

Raise your power capacity with this explosive, unconventional sprint workout

Neuromuscular power is arguably the area of cycling most overlooked by triathletes. How often have you heard, ‘I’m not doing sprints in my races, so why do them while I train?’ The reality is that every cyclist and triathlete should incorporate neuromuscular training to allow for improvements in more race-specific areas of their power profile.

Bike power is a function of leg speed (via cadence) and torque. Working these two areas separately can combine to produce improvements in your neuromuscular power. Hence where the name 2 x Power is derived from.

By improving the power you can generate for short durations (for example, 1-second to 30-second intervals), you have allowed for and provided space for secondary improvements in other aspects of your power profile (for example, 20-minute and 60-minute best power).

An athlete who never trains their top-end (sprints, max cadence builds, etc.) lowers his/her ceiling for improvements elsewhere.

2 x Prong Power incorporates standing starts to target max torque, and max cadence builds to target max leg speed. Since these intervals put plenty of stress on the actual bike itself, 2 x Power is recommended as an outdoor workout, however, it can be done on a trainer if need-be.

Warm-Up

5 minutes easy spin (<55% of Functional Threshold Power, <3 Rate of Perceived Exertion)

Cadence Pyramid Warm-Up (All at 60-70% of FTP, 5 RPE)
1 minute @ 60rpm
1 minute @ 70rpm
1 minute @

80rpm
1 minute @ 90rpm
1 minute @ 100rpm
1 minute @ 110rpm
1 minute @ 120rpm
1 minute @ 110rpm
1 minute @ 100rpm
1 minute @ 90rpm
1 minute @ 80rpm
1 minute @ 70rpm
1 minute @ 60rpm
1 minute easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
5 seconds sprint “opener” (90% of All Out)
5 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)

Main Set

30 seconds Standing Start*
8 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
30 seconds Max Cadence Build**
5 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
30 seconds Standing Start*
8 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
30 seconds Max Cadence Build**
5 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)

Cool-down

4 minutes easy spin cool down (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)

* Standing Start – On a flat and safe stretch of road, shift down into a big gear (on standard gearing, this could be a 53/15), and roll to a near stop. You may have your hands in the drops, on the hoods, or on the bullhorns of a TT bike. Proceed into an all-out sprint attempting to get your cadence as high as possible. Stop after 30 seconds.

** Max Cadence Build – On a flat and safe stretch of road, shift into an easy gear (on standard gearing, this could be a 39/25). Begin a 30 second progressive cadence build, from 90rpm up, finishing at your absolute highest cadence at the 30 second mark. Stay seated for these efforts.

 

www.sisuracing.co.uk

 

5 Nutrition Changes to Boost Immunity and Reduce Injury

I recently had a question from a new athlete to Sisu Racing as part of them coming onboard to do with nutrition and injury and thought i would share this with you.

Q: Last year my season was riddled with injury and illness. How can I change my diet to stay healthy?

A: What we eat all day long, and specifically before and after training sessions or races, greatly affects our immunity and injury rates. Research shows athletes suffer from more cases of upper respiratory tract infections and injuries following heavy training or depletive racing. Here are my top five recommendations for boosting immunity and decreasing injury rate:

1) Try to eat at least three servings of brightly coloured (and varied) fruit daily.

Yes, bananas are ok before a workout, but blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, melons and plums are also good choices to get in the much-needed vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants to keep your body at its best.

Vow to include one serving of fruit with breakfast daily, and two for snacks. Or dice and add fruits to grain-based dishes (think couscous and apricots, wheat berries and blueberries, or quinoa and strawberries).

These are great for lunch or dinner, picnics or post-workout snacks. Smoothies made with 350/400g of whatever fruits you can find locally and low-fat milk or yogurt are great for breakfast, snacks or post-workout recovery.

Add greens (see No. 2) for extra credit! Add nuts or seeds (see No. 5) for double extra credit!

2) Vary your salad greens.

Don’t get stuck in a lettuce or spinach rut. Choose dandelion, mustard or turnip greens, kale and arugula as they are high in calcium, iron and antioxidants. Bonus: They taste great, especially fresh from a local farmers’ market or CSA. Salads are a great start, as are stir-fries with any of the above. Of course, kale chips are an easy and tasty snack, or you can blend greens in smoothies or add some to breakfast or dinner omelets.

3) Fuel your training with the right amount of carbohydrates.

Studies suggest that adequate carbohydrate intake before and during strenuous training can help counteract immunosuppression that is commonly seen following exhaustive exercise.

Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack before all workouts (even the 5 a.m. sessions!). Be sure to take in 30–60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during prolonged training and follow this up with half your body weight in grams of carbs (e.g. 80 grams for a 160-pound triathlete) immediately following your workout to attenuate normal stress response to exercise and yield maximum immune-boosting results.

4) Recover with adequate protein (with above carbs) after workouts.

Most athletes should aim for 15–20 grams of protein during the 30-minute “recovery window” to optimize muscle recovery and ensure adequate protein intake throughout the day.

Include “good” fats in your diet.

5) The good fats will help to decrease inflammation, promote healing and recovery and help avoid injury. Add a serving of walnuts or ground flaxseed to cereals, snacks or smoothies. Include avocado or olive oil in salads and when cooking veggies for anti-inflammatory effects, and to boost your body’s absorption of key immune-boosting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

 

www.sisuracing.co.uk

Workout Wednesday – 4 Key Speed Sessions You Can Do Anywhere

Some athletes don’t like the track but do like speed work. If you are one of these athletes or can’t get to the track then we’ve got four key speed sessions you can do anywhere.

The Workout: VO2 Max Ladder

As we age, speed diminishes, so it’s important to incorporate some fast-paced sessions into your training, no matter your distance.

How to do it: The fast intervals should range between your 5K pace and 15 seconds per mile faster than 5K pace. After a 10- to 20-minute warm-up and 4 x 20-second strides, do two to four rounds of the following:

  • 3 x (30 seconds fast/30 seconds easy)

  • 2 x (45 seconds fast/45 seconds easy)

  • 1 x (60 seconds fast/2 minutes easy)

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

The Workout: 10K and Half Marathon Pacers

You should try this one at least two weeks out from race day. Use your goal race pace for the intervals. This does not mean going faster on the shorter intervals and slowing on the longer intervals.

How to do it: After a 10- to 20-minute warm-up and 4 x 20-second strides, run the following set two times:

  • 2 minutes at race pace/1 minute easy

  • 4 minutes at race pace/2 minutes easy

  • 6 minutes at race pace/3 minutes easy

  • Half marathoners: Add in a second 6-minute interval after the second round

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

The Workout: Road Loop Repeats

This workout is great for breaking up long tempos or transitioning from tempos and long runs to more intense workouts.

How to do it: After a 10- to 20-minute warm-up and a few quick strides, find a loop that is relatively flat and 1–2 miles long.

Run two to four repeats of each loop.

Run the first loop at a moderate intensity, around your half-marathon to marathon pace and make sure you are not very winded after the first loop. Take a 1:30- to 2:30-minute active rest between each loop. Your goal is to cut down your time on each loop while keeping the rest period constant.

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

The Workout: Speed Ladder

This helps to build speed while also focusing on some strength.

How to do it: Warm up for 10 to 20 minutes with a few quick strides. Then find a flat area with minimal sharp turns. Don’t focus on a certain pace but rather aim to hit a desired effort level. Effort level on the way up should be at a four to five out of 10; on the way down, increase effort to a seven or eight.

  • Run hard for 30 seconds/jog easy for 60 seconds,

  • Run hard for 60 seconds/jog easy for 90 seconds

  • Run hard for 2 minutes/jog easy for 2:30

  • Run hard for 3 minutes/jog easy for 3:00

  • Run hard for 2 minutes/jog easy for 2:30

  • Run hard for 60 seconds/jog easy for 90 seconds

  • Run hard for 30 seconds/jog easy 60 seconds

Cool down with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging.

www.sisuracing.co.uk

7 Top Tips For Buying a New Wetsuit

If you are in the sport of TRI for the long term, sooner or later, you will be buying that wetsuit. Even if you venture from the colder climes and are quite comfortable swimming in cold water, there will be times when it might be compulsory to wear one at certain race events. Often the cost factor is one that determines which direction you will go in when considering the purchase of a wetsuit. There is the option of renting or borrowing one for a once-off event, which is totally understandable.

As mentioned before, if you take up the sport a little more seriously, a wetsuit purchase becomes quite important going forward. We list some tips you might want to take heed of when on the prowl for a neoprene body-suit

 

1. More expensive is not necessarily better.

For the average triathlete who considers their swim to be the worst discipline, an entry level suit will do just fine. The cheaper entry level suits are often thicker and more-hard wearing which means, if you look after it, you get more wear and tear out of the suit than the higher end suits that are made of less pliable/softer materials.

2. Your swimming experience is important here.

If you consider yourself a half decent swimmer, who has come from competitive pool swimming perhaps and now wants to partake in the sport of TRI, you may want to spend a little more and go mid to higher-end.

Why? Simple, the materials are softer meaning more flexible on the shoulder and upper body areas. They are also easier to get on and off which is crucial in T1 when you are looking to gain and not lose seconds. The better swimmers will want to spend extra on a wetsuit – don’t buy cheap at first – and then find you need to upgrade later on.

3. Buy your wetsuit when you are at your smallest.

A suit needs to fit super tight so perhaps buy one when you are at your thinnest. Possibly before the start of each summer or halfway in between. A suit will become “softer” and easier to get into as it takes on some wear-use. As long as it is not strangling you around the neckline and you can breathe comfortably, then the suit is right for you.

The sizing charts are often very accurate and if you stick 99% to these, you will end up buying the suit that is made for you unless you are out of proportion for some reason.

4. Don’t confuse claustrophobia with the suit being too tight.

We have seen many a triathlete panic when they put on the suit. Not because it’s necessarily too tight but because they almost suffer from some form of claustrophobia. Using a suit and getting comfortable in one requires time and training in one.

So take your time and use as often as possible. In time, with the correct mind-set in place, the suit will become something you start enjoy wearing as opposed to hating. Another tip here is to ensure that you’ve got the suit on correctly, as the suit may feel too tight if it isn’t on right. See our video below for instructions on how to put on a wetsuit correctly:

5. A good suit will make you swim faster.

For a fast pool swimmer, we estimate at least 5 seconds per 100m faster with the suit on. The less accomplished swimmer might benefit to the tune of 10 seconds plus. That is a lot of speed around the swim course with no extra effort put in. The more comfortable you feel in the suit, the more you will enjoy it with the benefits from the extreme buoyancy that each wetsuit provides

6. A triathlon wetsuit is totally different to a scuba or surfing wetsuit.

Don’t get too confused. A triathlon wetsuit is made to keep the water out and ensure you are fast. A surfing suit, on the other hand, is made to take water in and heat it up so you stay warm. They are heavier and rest assured you will not swim well in one. Rather spend the few extra bob and buy a quality TRI wetsuit.

7. Compare pricing and take advice from those that have been in the sport for a good few years. Their advice could end up saving you money.

 

www.sisuracing.co.uk

ITU-Style Bike Pace Change-Ups

This workout is best completed early in a training block, bridging the gap between early season power/speed development and more sustained VO2 max and threshold efforts.

These workouts break longer sets into small bouts, done above threshold with short rests in between.

The short bouts make sustaining a higher intensity possible, whereas the short rest intervals don’t allow heart rate to fully recover. In the end, you get a combined threshold workout aerobically and speed skill development neuromuscularly.

Ideally, this set should be done on a trainer to ensure consistency in effort and pacing. For the 20-second recovery between each bout, be sure you keep pedaling—don’t just stop completely. A major component of successfully completing this workout is managing the spike in heart rate through the short recovery.

Warm-up

10 minutes building Zone 1 to Zone 2
1 minute Zone 3
1 minute Zone 4
1 minute Zone 5
2 minutes Zone 2

Main Set

2 x 15 minutes of alternating 40 seconds in Zone 5-6 with 20 Seconds in Zone 1
5 minutes between sets in Zone 1

Cool-down
10 minutes in Zone 1-2

www.sisuracing.co.uk

Quirks of a Triathlete

1. The only shoelaces you know of are elasticated.

2. Running trainers are suitable for every occasion. You have nightmares about leather shoes.

3. Holiday = training camp.

4. The pool is always the first thing you check before booking a hotel.

5. You go to the buffet cart 5+ times

6. A belt is for your race number, not holding your trousers up.

7. Knowing your heart rate is more important than the time of day.

8. Your drinks bottle never leaves your side.

9. Whenever you travel, your running shoes always go with you.

10. An energy/protein bar is an everyday snack.

11. You’ve already been up for three hours and burnt 1000 calories before arriving at work.

12. Once in the office, work = recovery time.

13. Your car is an extension of your wardrobe.

14. Buying everyday clothing is a luxury, buying new triathlon kit is essential.

15. The only shower you use is at the gym.

16. You only use a dry towel on the Monday of each week.

17. When someone mentions wearing a ‘suit’ you automatically think wetsuit.

18. You’d rather check someone’s race results than their Linkedin or Facebook profile.

19. Getting changed in a busy public space is not an issue.

20. You spend more on race entry fees than you do household bills.

21. You know every side ride in your area, as well as the gradient and current KOM.

22. You watch more TV on your trainer than you do the sofa.

23. If you’re not moving, you’re stretching.

24. Lubricant and talcum powder are race day essentials.

25. Sunglasses are a permanent piece of apparel – whether over your eyes or on your head.

26. Lycra in public is not an issue, in fact, you quite like it.

27. You can’t remember the last day that your body didn’t ache.

28. 90% of your t-shirts have more logos on than a Formula 1 car.

29. Your bike matches your family (team) car.

30. You wash your wetsuit before yourself after a swim.

 

www.sisuracing.co.uk

Hercules Festival of Sport St. Albans – In the news!

 

Hot off the press

Our event and the fantastic achievements of our competitors has been featured in the Herts Advertiser this week. Grab your copy to read the full story.

“It was fantastic to see so many people of all ages and abilities taking part in the St. Albans Festival of Sport and enjoying the array of multi-sport events”

Cllr Rosemary Farmer Mayor of St. Albans.

 

 

 

Workout Wednesday – The 24 Track Session

I like this workout because it has both a speed and an endurance component while also training the athlete to run fast on tired legs. It can also be easily tailored to the type of racing an athlete is competing in short course or long and where he or she is in their build cycle.

Warm-up

Start with a few minutes of dynamic stretching or movement prep. I like to use eccentric calf raises, glute bridges or clamshells, and standing, one-leg hip extensions.
Afterwards, run four laps of a standard track (roughly 1 mile).

Do the first two laps easy, then on laps three and four, run the turns easy and on the straightaways, do running drills for the first half (high knees or butt kickers) and then accelerate to 5K speed for the second half.

Main Set

12×200 fast followed by 400 steady
The 200s should be run quickly but not at an all-out sprint pace. The 400s should be run at a steady endurance pace.
If you’re just getting back into speedwork, you can start by breaking up the 12 200s into 3x[4×200/400] with 2 minutes rest between sets. Then advance to a 2x[6×200/400], and then to the full 12.

For short course athletes, run the 200s faster (around pace for a 400m repeat) and the 400s around marathon pace; for long course athletes, run the 200s a little slower (around pace for 800m repeat) and the 400s close to 1/2 marathon pace.
Total of 4.5 miles

Cool-down

Run a mile easy in the opposite direction around the track as what you ran the repeats.

 

Coach Duncan Grainge of SSIU Racing

www.sisuracing.co.uk

7 Awkward (but useful!) Swim Drills

Improving your freestyle demands that you embrace the unnatural.
If swimming technique felt like second nature, we’d all be gold medallists by now! Some swim drills can make you feel like you’re awkwardly floundering in the water, but with practice can really have an impact on how you swim.
Add these tricky but purposeful drills to your swim repertoire and reap the stroke-enhancing benefits.

1. Shark drill

How to: Hold a kickboard between your thighs. Swim freestyle with no kick. At the finish of each stroke reach a bit further and tap the part of the kickboard that is sticking out of the water (your “fin”).

Purpose: Ensures that you finish each stroke past your hip, and also encourages the torso to rotate without the hips and legs, as well as a quick arm recovery.

Variation: Use a pull buoy instead of a kickboard.

2. Fist drill

How to: Ball your hands into fists and swim freestyle.

Purpose: To feel how the forearm and upper arm are a part of your “paddle,” and to help increase stroke turnover.
Variation: Hold a tennis (or similarly sized) ball in both hands to prevent cheating and boost the lack of resistance on the palm.

3. Tarzan

How to: Swim freestyle while holding your head out of the water and looking towards the end of the pool.

Purpose: This drill builds neck strength and body awareness for open water sighting. It also serves as a way to check if you cross the centerline when your hands enter the water.

Variation: Try to keep your head lifted out of the water while keeping the arms underwater during the recovery portion of the stroke for a version of the doggie paddle.

4. Three Wide

How to: Swim an entire set with two other people (of similar ability) in your lane. Push off every wall at the same time. Switch positions within the lane on a regular basis.

Purpose: To get used to swimming in very tight spaces. Learn how to get aggressive for your patch of water and reduce the fear of being touched, pushed, hit and kicked.

Variation: Push off at the same time for the first lap and then drop into a pace line (similar to cycling) to practice drafting.

5. Uncoor

How to: Stroke with the right arm only, keep the left arm at your side, and breathe only to the left side. Switch arms and breathing sides every 25 or 50.

Purpose: This uncoordinated movement helps to work on breath timing, stroke coordination and body rotation by forcing you into an awkward stroke pattern.

6. Vertical kicking

How to: Position yourself vertically in the deep end of the pool (must be at least 1 foot deeper than your height). Clasp your hands around your waist to prevent using them. Keep your head above the water by freestyle kicking.

Purpose: Improve freestyle kick technique and strength.

Variation: Slowly raise your fingers, hands, wrists and forearms above the water to observe the change in balance.

 

7. Open and shut

How to: Swim freestyle with one hand closed in a fist and the other hand palm open. Switch hands every 25 or 50 yards.

Purpose: Helps develop a feel for the water; work on balance and gain awareness of how important a flat palm is to propulsion.

Variation: Take this drill up a notch by holding a tennis ball in one hand and a paddle in the other hand. Swap hand objects every 50 yards.

 

Coach Duncan Grainge